Verses 5-8


“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are:  for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

Here Jesus warns His people against the same Pharisaical hypocrisy in praying, which He had just reproved in almsgiving.  It was lawful to pray in the synagogues, and to pray standing, and that before men; but to do this upon design to be applauded by men is condemned by Jesus. 

“And when thou prayest” 
Literally:  “And when you pray.”

Our business in prayer lies with God.  We are not to concern ourselves with how men like our performances.  It is sufficient if God approves and accepts them.  To cure the foregoing vanity, Jesus points to secret prayer, in our closets (private room), where God is the Witness, and will be the Rewarder of our sincerity.

            PRAYER:   (Grk.–proseuchomai)–This Greek word for prayer, is a compound of  (pros) meaning “with,” and (euchê)–meaning “a vow.”  To pray correctly, a man binds himself to God, as by a vow, to live to His glory, if He will grant him His grace, etc      

         .Jesus now gives the second example of the right and wrong kind of righteousness. A proper idea of prayer is a pouring out of the soul unto God, as a free-will offering, solemnly and eternally dedicated to Him, accompanied with the most earnest desire that it may know, love, and serve Him alone.  He that comes thus to God will always be heard and blessed.   Prayer is the language of dependence; and he who deoes not pray is endeavoring to live independently of God.  This was the first curse, and continues to be the great curse of mankind.

“not be as the hypocrites are”
Literally:  “You shall not be as the hypocrites.”–That men ought to pray is assured. The wrong way is that of the hypocrites, the men who make a public show of their devotions  that they may have the name of being saintly or super religious.                  

These hypocrites manifested the same spirit about prayer as they have about almsgiving: they just did it in public places for public acclaim;  and they dispayed the same spirit about alms-giving.  It too was done by them in public places for public acclaim;Simply put,  Jesus condemned ostentatious prayer there, while they neglected secret prayer; but this does not appear to be His purpose.  The Jews were much in the habit of praying in public places. At certain times of the day they always offered their prayers. Wherever they were, they suspended their employment, and paid their devotions. This is also practiced now everywhere by the Muslims, and by the Roman Catholics. It seems, also, that they sought publicity, and regarded it as proof of great piety.

         “they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets”
         Literally:  “For they love to pray standing in the sunagogues and in the corners of the open streets.”  

         SYNAGOGUES…CORNERS OF THE STREETS: These were the usual places of prayer and the street corners where crowds stopped for busi-ness or talk. If the hour of prayer overtook a Pharisee here, he would strike his attitude of prayer like a modern Moslem that men might see that he was pious. These love, not to pray, but to pray where they will be seen, and pray that they may be seen.  So the Pharisees took pains to be in some public place, where they could strike an attitude of prayer in the sight of many observers. The same spirit is often still seen.
         Synagogues were  the places where the people assembled for public prayer, and hearing the Scriptures read and expounded.  They were in every city from the time of the Babylon captivity, and had service in them thrice a day on three days in the week.  In every synagogue was a council of grave and wise persons, over whom was a president, called the ruler of the synagogue. 
        Many expositors believe that the word synagogue, as used here, does not so much mean not the place of worship of that name, but places where many were accustomed to assemble, such as near the markets, or courts, where they could be seen of many. Jesus evidently does not mean to condemn prayers in the synagogues.  It might be said that He condemned ostentatious prayers there, while they neglected secret prayer; but this does not appear to be His design.
        The Jews were much in the habit of praying in public places. At certain times of the day they always offered their prayers. Wherever they were, they suspended whatever they had been doing and paid their devotions. This is also practiced now everywhere by the Muslims, and in many places by the Roman Catholics. It also seems that they sought publicity, and regarded it as proof of great piety.

“they have their rewards”
Like the hypocrites who gave alms–These hypocrites manifested the same spirit about prayer as they have about almsgiving: they just did it.  The said their loud prayers for public acclaim.  Jesus said they would get the same reward from God as woulld the public alms-giversNOTHING.

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

         “But thou, when thou prayest”
         Literally:  “but you, whenyou pray.”–This is a very
impressive and emphatic address.

          BUT THOU: (Grk.–su de), whosoever you are, Jew, Pharisee, Christian, you ned a  private place (your closet) to enter into for your praying. 

         Prayer is the most secret intercourse of the soul with God; or as it were, the conversation of one heart with another.  The Psalmist calls it, “deep crying out to deep”–the Spirit in you crying out to the Spirit on the Heavenly Throne.
         The world is too profane and treacherous to be a part of the secret.  We must shut the door against it: endeavor to forget it, with all the affairs which busy and amuse it.  Prayer requires retirement, at least of the heart; for this may be fitly termed the closet in the house of God, which house the body of every real Christian is. To this closet we ought to retire even in public prayer, and in the midst of company.

   “Know yhe knot that ye are the temple of God, and {that} the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
   “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, wich temple ye are.” (I Cor. 3:16-17).
   “What?  Knoow ye not that you body is the temple of the Holy Ghost {which is} in you, which ye have of god, and ye are not your own.” (I Cor. 6:19).

“enter into thy closet”
Literally:  “enter into your room”–It may be a store-house, a separate apartment, your private chamber, closet, or “den” where you can withdraw from the world and shut the world out and commune with God.

           Every Jewish home had a place for secret devotion. The roofs of their houses were flat places for walking, conversation, and meditation, in the cool of the evening. Over the porch, or entrance of the house, was, however, a small room of the size of the porch, raised a story above the rest of the house, expressly appropriated for the place of retirement, in secrecy and solitude, the pious Jew might offer his prayers, unseen by any but the Searcher of hearts.
          To this place, or to some similar place, Jesus directed His disciples to go when they wished to hold communion with God. This is the place commonly mentioned in the N.T. as the Upper Room, or the place for secret prayer.
          The meaning of Jesus is that there should be some place where we may be in secret–where we may be alone with God.  There should be some place to which we may resort where no ear will hear us but His ear, and no eye can see us but His eye. Unless there is such a place, secret prayer will not be long or strictly maintained.

“pray to thy Father which is in secret”
Literally:  “Pray to your Father in secret.”Private devotions are meant here. Jesus’ purpose is not to prohibit prayers in public assemblies. It is not the simple publicity of prayer which hE condemned. Prayer may be offered in any circumstances, however open;  but if it is not prompted by the spirit of ostentation, but dictated by the great ends of prayer itself.  It is the retiring character of true prayer which is here taught.    

Jesus Himself both prayed “in the mountain alone” (14:23), in the night alone (Luke 6:12), and in public in the presence of His disciples. We have records of many prayers offered by the apostles in public assemblies. “Thy closet” may mean any secret place. Peter's closet was on the housetop (Acts 10:9); Jesus’ was on a mountain alone.

         “which seeth in secret”
         Literally:  “seeing in secret”–Who sees what the human eye cannot see. Who sees the secret real designs and desires of the heart.

 Prayer should always be offered, remembering that God is acquainted with out real desires; and that it is those real desires, and not the words of prayer, that He will answer.

            REWARD THEE OPENLY:   Again, we see that the Textus Receptus has added to the Greek text the phrase, (Grk.–apodosei soi en toi phaneroi)—shall reward thee openly.”  These words are not originally in the Greek text, but were added by the English translators.

“But when ye pray, use no vain repetitions, as the heathen do:  for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

“use not vain repetitions”
Literally:  “Not be babbling vain words.”–Like stammerers who repeat the words, then mere babbling or chattering, empty repetition. The etymology is uncertain, but it is probably like “babble.”

This word is used of stammerers who repeat the words, or mere babbling or chattering, empty repetition. The worshippers of Baal on Mount Carmel (I King 8:26) and of Diana (Artemis) in the amphitheatre at Ephesus who yelled the same words for two hours (Acts 19:34) are examples. The Muslims may also be cited who seem to think that they “will be heard for their much speaking”. Vincent adds “and the Romanists with their paternosters and Avast

“as the heathen do:”
Literally:  “As the nations;” or,  “as the pagans.”–

“The Pagans thought that by endless repetitions and many words they would inform their gods as to their needs and weary them ('fatigare deos') into granting their requests”–F.F. Bruce

To repeat any words without meaning them, is certainly a vain repetition.  Therefore we should be extremely careful in all our prayers to mean what we say; and to say only what we mean from the bottom of our hearts.  Unfortunately there is much of our “Christian” music that does this very thing.  I have lost count of the number of “hymns of praise” I have heard that just repeat the same old phrases over-and-over.

HEATHEN:  (Grk.–ethnikos)–This Greek word is commonly translated as Gentile, or nations. 

In the Jewish way of thinking, the world was divided into two parts, Jews and the Gentiles; that is, in the Greek, the “nations,”–the nations that are destitute of the true religion. Jesus does not fix the length of our prayers. He just says that they should not repeat the same thing over-an-over, as though God did not hear the first time we say them.  He is probably condemning the practice of superfluously long prayers. His own prayers were remarkably short.

“The pagans thought that by endless repetitions and many words they would inform their gods as to their needs and weary them (“fatigare deos”) into granting their requests”-Bruce

A vain-glorious ostentation in prayer was condemned by Jesus in the former verse; here a vain-glorious multiplicity of words, or idle redundancies and impetinent repetitions, after the manner of the pagans, who expected to have their prayers granted by God, for the multiplicity of words used by themselves, is also condemned.

“Be not therefore like unto them:  for you Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.”

            “your Father knoweth what {things} ye have need of”
            Literally:  “For you Father knows what need you have.”–We do not pray to inform
God of our wants.  Omniscient as He is, He already know them! 

          He cannot be informed of anything which He did not already know; and He is always willing to relieve them.  The chief thing wanting is a fit disposition on our part to receive His grace and blessing. We do not pray to talk God into giving us what we need.  He already knows that.  Consequently, one great office of prayer is to produce a proper attitude in us: to exercise our dependence on God; to increase our desire of the things we ask for; to make us so sensible of our wants, that we may never cease wrestling till we have prevailed for the blessing.
God does not need to be informed of our wants, any more than He needs to be roused to attend to them by our incessant speaking. What a view of God is given here, in sharp contrast with the gods of the heathen!  But let it be noted that it is not as the general Father of mankind that our Lord says, “Your Father” knows what you need before you ask it; for it is not all men, as such, that He is addressing in this discourse, but His own disciples–the poor in spirit, the mourners, the  meek, hungry and thirsty souls, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers,  (see notes on the Biatitudes).who allow themselves to have all manner of evil said against them for the Son of man's sake–in short, the children of God, who, making their Father's interests their own, are here assured that their Father, in return, makes their interests His, and needs neither to be told nor to be reminded of their wants. Yet He will have His children pray to Him, and links all His promised supplies to their petitions for them; thus encouraging us to draw near and keep near to Him, to talk and walk with Him, to open our every case to Him, and assure ourselves that thus asking we shall receive–thus seeking we shall find-thus knocking it shall be opened to us.

            Prayer is not designed to inform God, but to give man a clear sight of his misery; to humble his heart, to excite his desire, to inflame his faith, to animate his hope, to raise his soul from earth to heaven, and to put him in mind that THERE is his Father, his country, and his inheritance.